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Pallister plans to raise Greyhound proposal at premiers' meeting

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan</p><p>Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left to right, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball chat as they wait for the official photo at the meeting of Canadian premiers in St. Andrews, N.B., on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. </p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left to right, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball chat as they wait for the official photo at the meeting of Canadian premiers in St. Andrews, N.B., on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

OTTAWA — The Manitoba government says four other provinces are on-board with the idea of asking Greyhound Canada to extend its Prairie service by two months beyond its planned regional shutdown Oct. 31.

The proposal will be raised at the ongoing premiers’ meeting in New Brunswick.

In a Wednesday interview, Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said his counterparts in the affected provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario — are in agreement they would like to see at least a 60-day extension of Greyhound's passenger and freight service.

Schuler said this would allow business to fill gaps between the Pacific coast and northwestern Ontario, where the bus company plans to end all service except for a Vancouver-Seattle route.

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OTTAWA — The Manitoba government says four other provinces are on-board with the idea of asking Greyhound Canada to extend its Prairie service by two months beyond its planned regional shutdown Oct. 31.

The proposal will be raised at the ongoing premiers’ meeting in New Brunswick.

In a Wednesday interview, Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said his counterparts in the affected provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario — are in agreement they would like to see at least a 60-day extension of Greyhound's passenger and freight service.

Schuler said this would allow business to fill gaps between the Pacific coast and northwestern Ontario, where the bus company plans to end all service except for a Vancouver-Seattle route.

In a phone call July 12 involving the five ministers responsible for transport, he suggested they write a joint letter to Ottawa and asking the federal government to push for an extension. Schuler had said that might involve a federal subsidy; "What we should do is ask first, and go from there," he said last week.

On Wednesday, Schuler said his counterparts opted against the letter for the time being, because of the premiers’ meeting, which started with casual chats ahead of formal meetings Thursday and Friday.

Greyhound Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it would be willing to extend service, or if anyone had asked it to do so.

Private transportation companies are eager to step in and fill the void left by Greyhound, Schuler claimed, saying five or six individuals or groups have already approached him about how they might begin operations in Manitoba.

Ontario-based Kasper Transportation has already announced intentions to expand west.

"Clearly, there’s money to be made. Now perhaps (Greyhound) wasn’t making the kind of money that their shareholders wanted out of Western Canada. Well, a smaller company knows how to sharpen their pencils, do a good business plan, and I suspect, there’s money to be made," Schuler said.

"But again, we’re going to let business do business, and we’ll provide what we believe is good opportunities as a government."

He reiterated the province does not plan to offer any subsidies for Greyhound or new start-ups.

"I’m just almost dying to do a business plan, but that’s not my field. I’m now minister; I’m not a business person now. They have to sit down, they’ve got to crunch the numbers," he said.

Reached Tuesday, none of the four other ministers said whether they’d supported the idea of asking Greyhound for more time.

B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena promised those who are worried "will not be left stranded without access to transportation."

"It is crucial that the federal government steps up to work with the provinces to ensure people can access the transportation services they need and deserve," she wrote.

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason wrote on social media his premier, Rachel Notley, would raise the issue at the premiers’ meeting "with a view to working on a common solution that includes the federal government," while boosting funding for pilot projects that connect rural municipalities.

His spokesman, John Archer, wrote "rather than signalling that any idea is favourable or not, it is best to let those discussions proceed at this time so that all involved can consider what options might be best."

Saskatchewan Minister of Crown Investments Corporation Joe Hargrave wrote to the Free Press, "We do not plan to provide any kind of subsidy from Saskatchewan taxpayers for Greyhound or another private company to operate."

Ontario did not provide a response; its transportation minister, John Yakabuski, was sworn in little more than two weeks ago.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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